Art is never supposed to be cute. If you called the Mona Lisa cute, I bet she’d slap that grin right off your face. Art should fill you with serenity or rage, with beauty or horror. But never the warm, cuddly cuteness of babies and kittens.

Cuteness in art is the kiss of death.

Every year I attend the “Art in Bloom” exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. This is a must because, by April, I am coming off two gray months and four white months of Minnesota winter, and my eyeballs are jonesing for color and flowers. Art in Bloom provides both. It also sometimes serves up a sickening dose of cuteness.

The idea of Art in Bloom is for an artist to select a piece of artwork and then interpret it in flowers. It is open to both professionals and amateurs so I try not to be too critical. My problem is when the floral artist gets too representational—or cute. And some years all cute minds think alike. I remember the year it was shoes. At least three interpretations included shoes in them: a painting of a bronco rider (the artist used a cowboy boot vase), a painting of a Dutch girl (yes, there was a wooden shoe tucked into the greenery), and a sculpture crafted of nothing but footwear.

My daughter thought I should give that last arrangement, which was constructed of white carnations and a pair of black sequined heels, a free pass since the sculpture itself (Willie Cole’s Ann Klein with a Baby in Transit) was made entirely of real shoes. Something to consider, but remember, this is coming from a gal who never saw a pair red stilettos she didn’t like.

In a typical year, the four-day, wildly popular festival draws nearly 160 participating floral artists and some 26,000 color-starved, garden-loving Minnesotans. This is good. Filling a museum any day is good. And I wouldn’t miss Art in Bloom for all the world, even if next year someone sticks a miniature John Deere (or, heaven forbid, a work boot) in the middle of floral interpretation of a farm scene.

Here is one of my favorite Art in Bloom displays from years past:

Santos Dumont’s The Father of Aviation II


My book Maud’s House is the story of an artist who loses her creativity but finds love. Maud wears cowboy boots but doesn’t put them in her art, as far as I know.

For another discussion about art, check out my post on untitled artwork.

By the way, Santos Dumont’s painting (see above) is featured in my cozy mystery, Warrior’s Revenge. In fact, I set a couple of scenes in the Minneapolis Institute of Art, one of the coolest places in the Twin Cities.